Joshua Sugarmann was born with an instinctive hate for middlemen. Had it not been for his inability to speak at the time, he would have voiced the following (later typical) observation two weeks after being born: had it been profitable for someone to act as a broker between him and his mother’s tit, he would have preferred to go hungry. Later in life, he grew increasingly preoccupied with circumventing middlemen and denying them any possible advantage. He initially refused to listen to prerecorded music, and instead went to concerts often. Eventually he decided that the ticket sellers and venues were simply middlemen as well and sought out street musicians from then on. He purchased his food directly from farmers and eventually grew his own. He built his house from wood he personally had delivered from lumber mills at great cost. His furniture, clothes, and bicycle were custom made. He once attempted to purchase a car but could not find one that was manufactured entirely by one company. At least one part was always imported from overseas and he refused to have anything shipped whatsoever. He was immensely wealthy, having inherited his father’s coal mining business and so was able to indulge himself on every whim.

He was so preoccupied with circumventing middlemen that he would awake as from a daydream with neigh idea as to what he was previously doing. Sometimes he would spend hours in the shower, constantly washing his hair, having forgotten if he had already done so and suspicious he hadn’t. He lived in this manner for almost forty two years.

Two days before Joshua Sugarmann’s forty-second birthday, Glen Harris, an insurance broker who was late to an important appointment, decided to run the red light at Lake View Forrest Avenue. His eyesight, however, wasn’t as great as it once had been. He failed to notice a young jogger who was listening to Chumbawamba’s Tubthumping and not oncoming traffic. Mr. Harris swerved and hit the almost forty-two year old Mr. Sugarmann, who was on his bike patiently waiting to make a left turn.

Twenty-one hours before his birthday, Mr. Sugarmann woke on a hospital bed and discovered that he could no longer breathe for himself. The machines that now kept him alive quietly shuffled somewhere behind him. He quietly wondered if he would live much longer. He remembered the fresh tomatoes he’d just bought from Paul at the farmer’s market. He’d been looking forward to eating them the minute he put them in his bag. He felt sad that they were now probably just a spot of red on the road. He was pretty sure he’d never taste another tomato, sushi, beer, French fries, caramel, chocolate, or anything else for that matter. He would never pet another cat or kiss another pretty girl. Too bad, really, he thought.

Thirty seconds before the slow bleeding in his skull killed Joshua Sugarmann, he realized that for the first time he could remember, not a single thought had been wasted on middlemen since waking. He frowned. Having wasted so much of his life on his quest to evade them, he was displeased to have abandoned it now. He was about to regret this line of thought when something occurred to him.

Joshua Sugarmann died sixteen and one half hours before his birthday with a slight smile on his face.